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Bryan Wilson: A Whirlwind

by Duane Cochran for

Fairmont State’s Bryan Wilson doesn’t have to worry about ever being mistaken for the Beach Boys co-founder of the same name but nowadays he can certainly identify with the band’s first number one hit in the United States “I Get Around.”

Wilson, you see, has played a variety of roles for the Falcons since he first arrived on campus in the fall of 2009. His first three seasons, including one in which he was redshirted, Wilson served as a backup to Dewey McDonald at free safety. When Wilson hit the field for the first time in the fall of 2010 he earned a job on special teams for FSU in addition to seeing time as a backup to McDonald. In two years he recorded 26 total tackles, broke up five passes, intercepted one and recovered one fumble.

This past spring Fairmont’s coaching staff asked Wilson to move to spur or outside linebacker behind senior Daniel Strosnider. Just as he was settling in there nicely in fall camp, McDonald suffered a broken arm which forced him to take a medical redshirt for the season and prompted the FSU coaches to ask Wilson to split time between both his new and old positions.

Then, in the second half of the season opener against Clarion (Pa.) University McDonald’s replacement at free safety, Leatis Jones, suffered a knee injury forcing Wilson into the starting role in his old familiar spot.

“It’s been a little bit of a whirlwind for me going from free to spur and back to free again,” said Wilson with a laugh. “The good thing is as a free safety you kind of have to know what the job of every position on the defense is because you’re responsible for a lot of the calls and getting people in the right spots. I was just starting to get a little comfortable with spur in fall camp when Dewey went down and the coaches asked me to take reps at both positions. Losing Dewey was huge for us. You just don’t replace a player of his caliber.

“Then Leatis went down which was even worse for us. Losing two guys at that spot is tough. The good thing for me and our team is I at least had a few years of experience playing the free safety spot for us. I’m comfortable there and hopefully the guys on the team are comfortable with me being there.”

They are. In fact McDonald, who was a two-time, first-team All-West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference selection for the Falcons at free safety, says the position is in good hands with Wilson.

“Wilson is a guy we all know we can count on,” said McDonald. “You never have to worry about him as a player. As my backup he pushed me to levels as a player that he doesn’t even know he pushed me to. He definitely made me work hard and perform at a high level because that’s how he operates every day. He prides himself on being a real student of the game. He’s always prepared and he’s always going to give you everything he’s got when he’s on the field.”

FSU defensive coordinator Shahram Shafii agrees.

“Bryan Wilson is a one-of-a-kind player,” said Shafii. “He’s been a role model for our team both on and off of the field ever since he got here. He comes into the film room every day with a notebook which is about the size of an encyclopedia and is full of notes. When we’re watching film and he makes a mistake and I correct him he’s writing it down so he can correct it the next time we’re on the field for practice. He comes in every day with different goals of what he wants to accomplish on that given day.

“He’s just a very driven kid. It doesn’t matter whether he’s playing one snap or a thousand he brings the same positive, hard-working attitude with him every single day. He’s a great kid and a great player. We’re very fortunate to have him, especially now in the situation that we’re in.”

Wilson, who is from Cary, N.C., is the second youngest of six boys in his family. He has one brother, Andrew, who plays minor league baseball in the Atlanta Braves organization and another who is in the military special forces.

“I was the brother who got picked on all of the time,” he said jokingly. “I wasn’t the baby so I couldn’t get away with anything. I think growing up with that many boys made me a little tougher. In fact, I know it did and it definitely helped to prepare me for college football.”

His father Berk is a minister and his mother Barbara works for an insurance company with former Falcon wide receiver Scott Thistle, who helped get Wilson to Fairmont State.

“I had never even heard of Fairmont State until Scott Thistle told me about it,” he said. “I owe him a lot. He trained me from my sophomore year until I was a freshman here and I still train with him until this day when I go back home. He really helped me develop in all areas, especially running with the proper form. I ran about a 4.7 40-yard dash when I was a sophomore and thanks to Scott I was down to a legitimate 4.5 by the time I was a senior.

“Scott made a couple of calls for me. We sent a tape up here and they offered me a scholarship. Having five brothers my parents said I had to pay my own way for school so I jumped at the opportunity and it’s been a good fit for me being here.”

Wilson credits his parents for raising him with good, solid values and ethics. He, along with fellow FSU football players Daniel Strosnider and Matt Wilmer and former Falcon basketball player Jamal Womble, are the leaders of a bible study group on campus.

“Above all God is first and foremost in my life. Then parents, family and football,” said Wilson. “Spirituality always been a very big part of my life and I’m thankful for that. Believe me I’ve had plenty of opportunities to throw things away and do my own thing, but I think thanks to my parents, God and the way I was raised I’ve been able to make some wise decisions and choices.

“I really enjoy doing what I do with Stro, Wilmer and Jamal. I always have them to lean on. When I came up here I knew no one. Jamal was one of the first people I met and he always encouraged me and was there for me to talk to. Believe me, that first year I talked to him a lot about a lot of things. He, and my parents, really helped me make the adjustment to being on my own and being here away from home my freshman year.”

In addition to football, Wilson is also a standout in the classroom. He is majoring in sports management and is an academic achievement award winner on the football team. He also works part time at the school’s Falcon Center and likes to organize football-watching get togethers and game nights be it electronic or board games with his teammates.

“I’ve always enjoyed doing that and I really try to include the freshmen on our team because I remember what it was like being a freshman and adjusting to college life,” he said. “I’ve really never enjoyed going out. I just try to give people other options or alternatives and let them know there’s other things to do and other ways to have fun.

“I love watching games and I like playing games like NCAA Football or simple board games. In fact, (FSU linebacker) Ryan Watts and I have really been getting into board games lately. We have some good battles.”

Whatever the game you can expect Bryan Wilson to be on top of it.